The time has come for Indian Americans to get more involved in politics, Nikki Haley, a former United States ambassador to the UN, said 1 September, exhorting the minority community to embrace their accomplishments, “brag” about them and not hide behind their traditional humility and shyness.
“Whether it’s Republican or Democrat,” said Hailey, a lifelong Republican herself and a rising star in the party, adding, “get involved, don’t just get involved by vote. Get involved by running, get involved within government offices, in public sectors.”
“I think Indians are so good at everything they touch, it’s a natural progression to have them get involved in politics as well,” she added further.
Haley chose an unusual platform for her muscular message for the community — the annual summit of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, a trade body. She was in conversation, virtually, with Ajay Banga, the MasterCard CEO, another successful Indian American like herself.
Haley is by far the tallest political leader in the community. No Indian had ever held a federal cabinet-rank position before she was named by President Donald Trump as ambassador to the UN in 2017. She is also a two-time state governor, an honour she shares with Bobby Jindal, a fellow Indian-descent Republican.
Haley might have to concede that community crown to another Indian-American, Kamala Harris – if she wins. Harris is running for vice-president with Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president.
In growing recognition of her standing in the party, Haley, despite being out of office, landed a major speaking spot at the just concluded party convention to re-nominate President Donald Trump. She is widely expected to run for the Republican presidential nominee in 2024
There are an estimated 4 million Americans of Indian descent. At just about 1% of the population, they are not big in numbers. But they are the most affluent and educated community, and the most philanthropic, something that Haley said makes her feel the proudest about being Indian American.
“Those are things that we should brag about because those that have come before us have worked so hard to reach these points and we have to make sure that we take to the next level,” Haley said, urging the community to speak more about its accomplishments, and flaunt them.
“I think that we have to not be so shy and not be super humble, but also go out there and try and share what we know we can be good at, and I think that there’s a lot of different aspects from business to education to health care, everything in between that we can share that will add to this country and make people more proud of the Indian community that is here,” Haley added.
There are no counts of the number of Indian Americans running for office at any time — because the range includes everything from the White House to the county education board and lower — but the number of those elected to the most high-profile positions has been growing over the years.
From just the one, Dalip Singh Saund in 1956, the number of Indian Americans in US congress has risen to five — Harris in the Senate and Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Ro Khanna in the House of Representatives.
Haley is calling for more, up and down the range.